Page images

If Witness is unable to attend.


Committee, when it must be reported for the information of the House, who are not present to hear it (e).

When the House has need of the evidence of any per: ** son who is incapacitated from attending, an order is made

empowering certain members to wait upon him to receive

his evidence ($). Form of Exami- A member may, in his place, give information to the

House of any thing he knows relative to any matter under hearing at the bar (8).

When a Witness is examined before the House or a Committee of the Whole, the bar must be down. If the Witness be already in the custody of the House, or if he be in prison, he should be brought by the serjeant, with the Mace, who must stand by him during the examination, though the practice in this respect has sometimes differed (h). But when a common Witness is examined, the Mace should remain on the table. When it is off the table, no member can speak, or even suggest questions to the Chair. When it is left on, the members, though they cannot debate, may suggest to the Speaker such questions as arise out of the examination, and appear to them ne

cessary to be put (2). Select Commit. Select Committees are generally empowered by the

order appointing them, to send for persons and papers. If a Committee be appointed without this power, they may summon witnesses, but if they refuse to attend, authority must first be obtained from the House, before they can be compelled to come. When such authority has been given, the Chairman may sign an order for the person to appear and give evidence before the Committee. If he then refuse to attend, he may be committed for contempt. This cannot be done by the Committee, but only by the House, after the matter has been reported to them.

Speaker only to put questions.

tee to examine Witnesses.

Committal for contempt.

[blocks in formation]

&c. in a witness,


In like manner, a witness guilty of prevarication in giving Prevarication, his evidence, will be punished. Also, any person tampering with a witness, or directly or indirectly attempting to prevent his attendance, will be severely censured by the House, as committing a breach of their collective privileges (k). It is not sufficient for any one to plead such an Witness proattempt in excuse for non-attendance, or prevarication, for tected by the the House will protect every Witness giving an honest evidence (1).

No Witness can be arrested upon any civil suit whilst in attendance for examination, or within a reasonable time necessary for a return to his residence, after his final discharge from attending before the Committee (m).*

By a recent order of the House of Commons (n) it is Report of Evirequired, that in all cases where Witnesses are examined before any Select Committee, there be presixed to the minutes of the evidence of such Committee, to be reported to the House, the name of any member asking a question.

When either House, or any of its Committees, desire Members exa' the attendance of a member of the other House, to give other House. evidence, leave must be requested by message; and it is never granted but with this proviso, that the member may attend "if he thinks fit”—(see ante p. 309).

The mode of admitting Peers into the House of Com- Admitting Peers mons to give evidence, is as follows :— They are received in at the door by the Serjeant, bearing the Mace, and on Examination. entering they make three obeisances to the House. They


mined by the

into House of Commons for

(k) C. J. 29 Nov. 1710.

(1) C. J. 25 Mar. 1833. (m) C. J. 7 Aug. 1835.

(n) C. J. 12 Feb. 1636. * In a recent case—where a Parliamentary Agent, returning from the House of Lords, where he had been attending an appeal, was arrested upon an attachment for the costs of a Chancery suit,-it was held, that he was entitled to his discharge by privilege of Parliament, although he had not returned by the shortest road, and had stopped for refreshment; aud that he might apply for that purpose either to the Court, out of which the process had issued, or to that on which he was attending when arrested.- Att. Gen. v. Skinner's Comp. ; ex parte Watkios.8 Sim. 377; & Cooper. 1.

And Judges.

then sit down, covered, on a chair placed for them within
the bar, on the left hand as they enter ; but in speaking,
they stand up uncovered, the Serjeant standing by them
all the time, with the Mace on his shoulder. After giving
their evidence, they withdraw, making the same number
of obeisances to the House as on entering, the Serjeant
with the Mace accompanying them to the door. The
difference between the reception of a Peer and of a Judge
has been, that the Speaker informs the Peer that there is
a chair for his Lordship to repose himself “in," and to
the Judge the Speaker says, that thére is a chair for him
to repose himself“ upon,” i. e. as explained by usage, for
the person to rest with his hand upon the back of it (o).

When Peers are sitting as a Court of Criminal Judicature, they may order the attendance of members of the House of Commons; unless it be on a case of impeachment, when it must be a request (P).

If either House have occasion for the presence of a person in custody of the other, they ask leave of that

House that he may be brought before thern (9). How far Coni- The extent of the power of the House of Commons, to

pel compel Witnesses to attend, without asking leave of their

superior officer, if they are under authority, is a disputed question, but it would appear from the precedents of foriner proceedings on this subject, that if they desire to examine a private soldier in the regular army, leave must be first obtained from his commanding officer (r); this does not seem to extend, however, to officers, whether subaltern or otherwise (s).

It is unquestionably desirable and right that the House of Commons, being the grand Inquest of the nation,

Witnesses in custody of the other House.

mops can compel witnesses to attend.

(0) 2 Hats. 142.
(9) 3 Hats. 52.
(3) C. J. v. 64, pp. 17, 21.

(p) 9 Grey, 306, 406.
(m) C. J. v. 74, pp. 274, 275.

should possess the power to compel persons to attend, and give evidence before them in all cases where it may be required, but it would seem proper that, when the form of requesting the permission of a member of the Upper House to attend, is observed, the same courtesy should be extended to the immediate Servants and Officers of the King, who is also a branch of the legislature.

Bat when this individual is merely a civil officer in the Government (r), or the head of a department not under the immediate control of the Sovereign (s) no such permission is necessary, and the House may, if its order be disobeyed, vindicate its authority by force.

(r) J. H. of A. U. C. Ist Sess. 13th Parlt. ; 7 Feb. 1837. (8) J. H. of A. for 1828, p. 116, &c.


On Officers & Servants of both Houses.


Chairman of

I. OFFICERS, &c. OF THE LORDS. &c. :. Each House of the Imperial Parliament has certain of Both Houses. officers and servants for the superintendence and transacof the Lords. tion of its business. Those of the Lords are as follows:

1. A Chairman of Committees upon Private Bills and other matters. This Officer is elected by the House at the commencement of every session; and it is his duty, not only to preside over all Committees on unopposed Private Bills (see ante p. 213), but to take the chair at all Committees of the Whole, unless another Chairman be specially appointed. The post is now, and has been for many years, filled by Lord Shaftesbury, a noble Lord of profound and practical experience, as well upon the complicated subject of Private Bills, as upon all other duties. connected with the situation. ..

2. A Clerk of the Parliaments, appointed by letters. patent from the King*.-The duties of this Officer are similar to those of the Clerk of the House of Commons, which will be presently considered. His place in the House is upon a bench behind the table, where he must

sit “to record all things done in Parliament.” He has Under Clerks. two Clerks under him, who kneel behind the bench (a).

Clerk of the

(a) Elsy. 112. * By the 5th Geo. IV. ch. 82, after the expiration of the existing Letters Patent, the Clerk of the Parliaments shall be appointed by His Majesty, and shall execute bis office in person; and be removable by His Majesty on an Address from the House of Lords.

« PreviousContinue »